The Commonwealth of Independent States (the CIS) is an international organization responsible for regulation of co-operation in the political, economic, environmental, humanitarian, cultural and other fields between the states which were parts of the United Soviet Socialist Republics (but not all of them). Environmental issues were among the first to be included on the agenda of the CIS during its first years.
Thus, the CIS Protocol of 30 December 1991 set forth the foundation for the co-operation of the CIS member states in the field of wildlife protection and declared the intention to conclude a special agreement on the conservation of fishery resources in the Caspian Sea between the governments of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan.
The CIS Agreement on co-operation in the field of the environment and environmental protection, adopted on 8 February 1992, was the most important document for the cooperation in environmental protection and conservation. Its main objective was to enable the development and unified harmonization of the environmental policy of the CIS member states, as well as the adoption of normative acts in the field of environmental protection, environmental and safety standards.
In accordance with the provisions of article 2 of this Agreement, the Parties were obliged to: keep accounts of Natural Resources and their use on quantitative and qualitative objectives and to carry out environmental monitoring; implement state control over the natural environment and its resources; take measures for the reproduction of living resources, the conservation and restoration of biological diversity; develop a network of nature reserves, wildlife reserves, national parks and other protected areas and natural systems, limit economic activities in these areas; assess the environmental consequences of economic activities on their territories; establish scientifically based standards for economic activities and the extraction of natural resources, as well as the limits of these activities, taking into account the need to ensure environmental safety and well-being; keep state red books, present documents for the inter-state Red Book.
In addition, the Agreement established an Inter-State Council on the environment, which included the heads of the environmental ministries of the CIS member states. The Council was formed on a parity basis and took its decisions by consensus.
Another area of co-operation was the adoption of Model legal acts, which form the basis for the development, adoption and improvement of national legislation in the CIS member states. For example, the Model law “On the animal world” was aimed to establish a unified legal regulation in the field of the protection and use of the animal world in order to meet environmental, economic, aesthetic and other needs, taking into consideration the interests of present and future generations. Furthermore, the Model law “On the conservation of salmon fish, its reproduction, its rational use and the regulation of trade” stresses the importance of the conservation of aquatic biological resources.
In 2013, a new agreement on co-operation in the field of environmental protection of the CIS member states was adopted. It has replaced the CIS agreement on interaction in the fields of ecology and environmental protection and established the basis for cooperation in the protection and use of land, soil, forests, waters, atmospheric air, the ozone layer and climate, flora and fauna.
Despite the general similarity of their articles, the new agreement remains fundamentally different. Firstly, its text did not include any provisions on the harmonisation of environmental legislation or environmental standards and norms. In general, there is a tendency to move away from the development and implementation of coordinated policies and harmonization of the environmental protection towards standard provisions for cooperation in this area. This is typical for framework agreements. In particular, the parties undertake to jointly develop and implement inter-state programmes and projects in the field of environmental protection and environmental security; to develop and implement control methods for: the protection of rare and endangered wild animal and plant species and their habitats; the prevention and minimization of damage caused by the invasion of alien species belonging to wild animals and plants; study the effects of genetically modified organisms on the components of biodiversity; develop common approaches and implement coordinated measures to restore rare and endangered animal and plant species that have common areas for member states, etc.
In addition to this agreement, the work of the CIS member states is also conducted within the framework of the agreement on the Book of rare and endangered animal and plant species - the Red Book of the CIS member states. Thus, in accordance with its provisions, the concept of “rare and endangered animal and plant species” refers to species (subspecies, populations) of animals, plants and fungi when there are signs of a decrease in the number and/or range, unfavourable changes in their conditions of existence, extremely limited distribution and a small number of populations, indicating the need for special measures to be taken in order to preserve and restore them in the territory of the CIS member states (Article 1). To achieve these goals the member states must establish the Red Book. At the same time, the importance of the parties' obligation to ensure the conservation of species is weakened by the provision of the agreement that the inclusion of animal and plant species in the Red Book does not affect the sovereign rights of the member states over the resources of those species in their territory (Article 4, paragraph 3), as well as by the fact that member stats have a right to establish exceptions to this prohibition to the extract (collect) such species in their national laws (article 5).
Moreover, the CIS member states cooperate on specific environmental issues. For example, the Agreement on cooperation in the field of plant quarantine of 28 October 2016, which aims to strengthen the co-operation of the parties in the fields of plant quarantine, the development of common measures to increase plant safety and the level of protection of the territories of the participating states against the introduction and spread of quarantine objects. In accordance with this agreement, the parties exchange information, identify and disseminate quarantine objects and regulatory acts, conduct joint research and provide each other with scientific and technical assistance. At the same time, the approved bodies of the member states shall carry out quarantine phytosanitary control of the import, export and transit of the regulated products in accordance with their legislation.
In conclusion, it can be noted that co-operation in the field of legal protection and use of wild species at the CIS level is fragmented, with only few legal acts, for example, the Agreement on co-operation in the field of plant quarantine. In this framework international cooperation for the conservation of biological diversity is generally governed by the framework agreement, but its provisions on the conservation and restoration of biological diversity have not been developed in other legal instruments. And the absence of a single agreement that would govern relations in this area is a weakness of regulation in the CIS framework.